The Irony of Multicuturalism


We live in a multicultural world: a world where a thousand cultures bloom, where sublime music, dazzling dances, great literature, beautiful poetry, magnificent art, fascinating cosmic visions, and a thousand cultural expressions of the human spirit find expression in so many different languages.
With our sophisticated technologies, no matter where we live, we have ample opportunities for experiencing these and enriching our lives as brothers and sisters in one large human family.
But instead, our world is wrought with conflicts, confrontations and controversies, claims of superiority of one culture over another, convictions that the religion of one’s own group is the only true path to the Divine, the arrogance that one’s own nation is better than any another, and such other narrowness that might have been understandable in the immature infancy of humanity, but which today are downright ugly and preposterous, even dangerous. Sadly, it is often in this framework that people reflect on language, culture and heritage in the grand internet arena. So many keep proclaiming how proud they are to belong to this religion or that, to this country or that, speaking this language or that. The planet is infested with so many proverbial frogs in the well of Aesop’s imagination.
When people from one cultural heritage settle down in alien shores, usually for making a better living, problems become even more complex. Instead of learning and absorbing the new culture in whose midst they have chosen to arrive, and contributing to the country by sharing their own cultural richness with their new fellow-citizens, many withdraw into their linguistic and cultural  cocoons, become psychologically insecure, and crave for special recognition and identity. Some even try to impose their own ethnic baggage and religion on the nation they have adopted, some begin affirm their uniqueness and yet others engage in attacks on their hosts who are viewed as villains out to destroy their culture. Books are written, lectures given, and passions aroused with this mindset. We live in an age when tastes and distastes, respect and rancor, love and hate are effectively formed through websites, list-serves, and e-books. It is often the negatives that many choose to dwell.

As a result, multiculturalism is not a state of cultural diversity that is to be celebrated and rejoiced in, but a threat to the security and integrity of many groups.
What a sad irony!
April 28, 2014

A Prayer for Longevity


There is a shloka in the Atharva Veda (XIX.63) which prays for longevity in the following poetic way. Note the rhythmic repetition of sharadah shatam which means autumns hundred. Autumn is the best season in India. Note also how the prayer asks not only for seeing (understanding) and living, but also for learning (acquiring knowledge), rising (being up and above an easy posture), thriving (doing well materially), and growing (advancing).

pashyema sharadah shatam
jivema sharadah shatam
budhyema sharadah shatam
rohema sharadah shatam
pushema sharadah shatam
bhavema sharadah shatam
bhuyema sharadah shatam
bhuyasi sharadah shatam

May we see for a hundred autumns!
May we live for a hundred autumns!
May we learn for a hundred autumns!
May we rise up for a hundred autumns!
May we thrive for a hundred autumns!
May we stay for a hundred autumns!
May we grow for a hundred autumns!
May it be for more than a hundred
autumns!

April 18, 2014

From TaittirIya Upanishad


Here is part of the opening verse of the Taittiriya Upanishad.
namo brahmaṇe
namaste vāyu
tvam eva pratyaksham brahmāsi
tvam eva pratyaksham brahma vadisyāmi
ṛtaM vadishyāmi
satyam vadishyāmi
tam māmavatu
tad vaktāram avatu
avatu mām
avatu vaktāram
Aum Sānti Santi SAntiH

Salutations brahman
Salutations to the Wind.
Thou indeed are the perceptible Brahman.
Of Thou as the perceptible Brahman, I will speak.
I will speak of that which is right.
I will speak of that which is true.
May it protect me!
May it protect him that speaks.
Om, peace! peace! peace!
This invocation sees in the wind (air: an absolute essential for life) a material manifestation of Brahman, the sustainer of all life. It makes a promise to utter only that which is morally right, and to speak of only that which is the truth. In other words, this is a resolution to engage only in moral discourse, and also never to speak of anything that is untrue. It seeks the protection of the Divine, not only for the aspirant but for all who are committed to moral uprightness and to the truth.